Sunday, May 25, 2014

Review: Partials by Dan Wells


Author: Dan Wells
Release: February 28th 2012
Genre: Dystopia, Post-Apocalypse, Science Fiction, YA
#1 in the Partials Sequence
Sequels: Fragments (#2), Ruins (#3)


Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. But sixteen-year-old Kira is determined to find a solution. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that that the survival of both humans and Partials rests in her attempts to answer questions about the war's origin that she never knew to ask.

Playing on our curiosity of and fascination with the complete collapse of civilization, Partials is, at its heart, a story of survival, one that explores the individual narratives and complex relationships of those left behind, both humans and Partials alike—and of the way in which the concept of what is right and wrong in this world is greatly dependent on one's own point of view.


Well, well, well. This book was completely unexpected and it really did not meet any of my expectations. You know I rarely ever inform myself much on the plot of books I'm planning to read, preferring to know as little as possible and going in as blind as I can. However, with every book I'm starting, I still make a lot of assumptions about what's waiting for me up ahead, and truly, none of them came true. I'm still trying to make up my mind if I'm happy about that or not.

Anyways, let us start off with the characters. With that girl on the cover, and the name Kira, I immediately couldn't help but think of—

Ah, yes. Kira Yukimura from Teen Wolf. Which, admittedly, bought this Kira right here some bonus sympathy points and made me like her from the start. However, she sorely needed those extra points, because in due time, the frequency of my frowns heavily increased. Call me heartless and cold, but I just cannot stand heroines who try to save everyone, who want to drag dead bodies home to bury them properly, who feel personally responsible for every evil in the world, especially heroines that live in post-apocalyptic worlds, because I expect them to have toughened up over the years living in such a hard, rough world. I just think that this sort of reckless selflessness and disregard for own personal safety in order to help as many people as possible is extremely unrealistic, I have trouble believing anyone is really that self-sacrificing. Plus, it makes that character simply seem too ... likable, which in me, triggers the exact opposite and makes me instantly dislike them. In the end, it was this flaw that really made me more indifferent towards Kira, and even with the bonus points from her better namesake, I ended up more or less tolerating her, but not exactly liking her. She's alright, I guess, and it's not like she's too holy or something, she still has her faults, but still. Her constant need to save everyone simply ruined her a bit for me.

Otherwise, I did really like this cast of characters, with one exception. I think they were all, even Kira, extremely well developed and fleshed out, there were complex struggles in each of them, they had to make hard decisions and face the consequences, and their actions and attitudes were all believable as well as appropriate. I especially took a liking to Jayden, because he was so charismatic and practical, used to a post-apocalyptic world, unlike Kira, and Haru's changing inner conflicts and motivations during the course of the novel were amazingly well done. Xochi was headstrong but vulnerable too, she had her weak points, her motivators and she was a really kickbutt character. Samm was also a pretty cool dude, for a Partial, you know. 

Now, the only character I really had a problem with was Marcus. One of my predictions for this book was that there was definitely going to be a love triangle — I absolutely have no idea why I was so sure there'd be one, but I really was — only, there was none. I presumed that Jayden would definitely be a part of the love triangle, for whatever reason, and I also counted on some forbidden romance with a Partial, of course. I didn't factor Marcus in though, and I was really surprised by him. Now, we're all always complaining about insta-love and the ancient boy meets girl, girl meets boy trope, but honestly ... it's all we have. Isn't it? Because if you introduce a relationship that already is, and has been steady for a while now, then it's just not ... believable. Like, you can't just put these two characters in front of me, tell me they love in each other and they're dating and expect me to just take that as it is. No. You still have to show me why they would work in a healthy, co-dependent partnership, what is keeping them together, how and why they even got together in the first place, etc. — and Wells didn't really do that. The opposite, rather, he just kept on showing me why they didn't work, why they were dysfunctional, but he, or rather Kira, simply kept telling me, or maybe herself, why she needed/wanted Marcus. It simply wasn't enough to convince me of their feelings for each other, which made it unbelievably awkward for me every time they told each other they loved each other. Not to mention that something's just missing if you introduce already existing relationships, because we as the reader didn't get to experience what their first impressions of one another were, all they went through together, we didn't see them slowly fall for each other and so on; it's simply not the same this way and it's making it kind of impossible for me to really ship them.

Although, admittedly, there was very little romance. There really wasn't much kissing, in fact, there were no explicit makeout scenes that were ever described in detail or were longer than one simple sentence telling the reader that they pressed their lips together, and emotional talk between Kira and Marcus was also kept to a minimum, which surprised me. As I said, I already kind of thought that romance would play a bigger role, but I'm really glad it didn't, since to be perfectly honest, romance doesn't really have any place in a world that's still kind of war ravaged and close to its ultimate end. And there was no love triangle. I do believe that Wells implied that Kira and Samm might have something romantic coming in the sequels, but it was really barely there and I can't exactly be sure. I mean, going by the genre and all, I'd say yes but I could be wrong yet again.

As to plot though ... I wasn't the biggest fan. The pace was never really slow per se, but I do think that the plot became really convoluted halfway through, because the book kept flipping through adventures and events like it was nothing. I kept trying to figure out the endgame and couldn't find it for the life of me. I mean, yeah, the cure for RM and the survival of the human race, but those were ulterior ends that I didn't think would even be solved at the end of this novel, but would take a little more time, and so I was never sure what the book was all about, really. When they initially set out to capture a Partial to study him, I thought that was going to be it — that the whole book, all of its 460 pages, were going to be about the group wandering around in the deserted outskirts of a deserted world, trying to survive, with lots of ambushes and running for their lives, you know, the usual drill, until they managed to actually snatch one and get away with it for the end climax — only that didn't happen. There's so much going on, a lesser author totally would have made an entire trilogy out of this one book. I'm not exactly complaining, since there was always some thrumming tension going on that made me want to read on, but it was a bit confusing and messy.

As for world-building, something that kept nagging me was that Partials was so ... I don't know, not really post-apocalyptic. I mean, the world has pretty much gone to shit, yes, but it never really felt like it was really end of the world serious. The human race faces extinction without the ability to reproduce, but that kind of urgency never reached me. I kept waiting for the truly serious things coming that are usually part of the post-apocalypse genre, such like radiation diseases, diseases in general, genetic mutations, dwindling resources, uninhabitable land, and so on ... but it never came. In fact, these people seem to live pretty comfortably, considering, they have running water, houses and clothes, community, education, medical equipment... their only hardships really are only that they're dying out and that they don't have a lot electricity left, but even that is still running, just not in the grandeur it is nowadays. They have transportation, they even have technologically advanced healing methods like those regen boxes that increase cell growth or something. I don't know why, since it doesn't really make much of a difference and was such a minor thing, but this not-so-rough life bothered me. Also, it's always amazing to see how much these American authors disregard the other continents in dystopias and post-apoc books like these. Never fails to bring a smile to my face, how they keep forgetting that America is not the only place around and tip-toeing around the issue of what's happened to other continents. I will admit that there is one instance where Kira wonders if they're truly all that's left of the entire human race, but it was really minimal and she quickly comes to the conclusion that yes, they are. Just like that.

All in all, like I said, it's an entertaining read that is able to keep your attention span, although some of the time I did catch myself thinking something more of the lines like "meh" and "snore." However, those times were in the minority, and overall, I did like Partials. Especially for me, as a self-declared science nerd whose two out of three LKs (they're close to AP classes, I guess) are bio and chemistry, since there is quite a lot of science talk and discussing the specifics of genetic structures and so on, it was nice. To be honest, not quite as nice as in Control, but still. The characters are mostly agreeable too, and while the story does tie up nicely ultimately, there's enough loose ends to make me curious about everything that hasn't been uncovered yet.

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